Ahmadinejad, a former revolutionary guard whom several U.S. embassy
hostages from 1979-80 have recognized as one of their captors,
is an engineer who was involved in covert operations during the
Iraq-Iran war. Installed as mayor of Tehran, in an election as
dubious as the one which recently elevated him to the presidency,
he made his mark by rolling back the mild reforms of the preceding
city council, through which some Western-style advertising was
allowed to appear on billboards, and women were beginning to come
out in the daylight.
to the presidency, to replace the window-dressing of Mohammad
Khatami -- one of the “moderate faces” the regime
has used for its tactical purposes -- was itself an indication
that the Iranian leadership is going for broke. It has observed
trends in its immediate region -- Iran is located between Afghanistan
and Iraq -- and is deeply alarmed. More than a generation after
the Khomeini revolution, it can no longer pretend to hold the
enthusiasm of the masses, and has had to use ever more thuggish
devices to repress demonstrations and uprisings in all major towns.
For the West,
whose command centre is ultimately the White House, the question
has been how to assess the ayatollahs’ intentions. Would
they respond to external challenges, and internal decay, by gradually
admitting the necessity of reforms? Might they capitulate? Or
would they (in every sense of the phrase) “go nuclear”?
like me, the answer has been plain for several years now. It should
now be plain to everyone else. President Ahmadinejad’s bold
repetition of the promise to bring about a new Holocaust, in combination
with Iran’s scarcely-concealed race to become a nuclear
power with long-range missile delivery systems, leaves nothing
ambiguous. But then, neither did Ahmadinejad’s recent underreported,
psychopathic speech to the U.N. General Assembly. And it should
be remembered that even his opponent in the Iranian presidential
run-off last June, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, had called repeatedly
for Israel’s annihilation, as speaker of the Majlis through
much of the 1980s.
Holocaust policy is thus nothing new. What is new is the way it
is being declared, openly and internationally. And as Tony Blair,
the British prime minister, hinted aloud yesterday, we have come
to the point where we must consider military means to make the
Iranian policy change.
anybody in Europe knowing our history,” Mr Blair said, “when
we hear statements like that made about Israel it makes us feel
very angry.” He actually looked angry. "Ask yourself:
A state like that, with an attitude like that, having a nuclear
came from many unusual quarters, including the Palestinian Authority,
which must be uneasily aware that an Iranian nuclear strike that
eradicates Israel, will also have the effect of eradicating them.
Even Kofi Annan expressed his displeasure.
media have had no time to report these world-shaking events, this
week, for President Bush has been manoeuvred into a political
pit inside the Beltway, and that’s what they live for. That
we cannot afford to have a U.S. President tied down with cheap
domestic controversies, at a time like this, was one of my unstated
reasons for luke-warmly supporting the Supreme Court nomination
of Harriet Miers.
I have myself
been unsure whether the wiser course were sabotage rather than
direct attack. For years I have thought the West should be trying
harder not to appease, but rather to undermine, the Iranian regime,
by aggressively supporting its domestic opponents. An external
attack might help the regime rally domestic support. And of course
it would have to be done over the demonstrating bodies of the
worlds’ angry Left. Therefore try every option, short of
think “every other option” is credible any more. We
must look squarely at what is before us, and not for an excuse
to look away.
be realized that President Ahmadinejad’s threats -- and
his subsequent failure to retract them -- themselves constitute
acts of war. The Israelis, at the least, are in a moral and legal
position to act in self-defence; and all decent men and women
are under a moral obligation to support them.